The Borrellians are a race of barbarians that inhabit the icy northern realm of Borrell. They closely resemble humans, but typically stand 2 meters tall with very broad bodies. Borrellians have thick bones, dense muscle which both contribute to their broad structures. Multiple redundant physical defenses against the cold are present in the Borrellian body: thick layers of fat, thick hair, long eyelashes. All Borrellians have stark white hair and brown skin. Their eyes are appear white as they are covered in a milky membrane which shields their vision from the glaring white blindness of the snow. Borrellians who live their lives in the southern lands have been known to eventually loose this milky membrane after many years. The women are renowned for their beauty and independence. The usual life span in this harsh culture is only fifty years.
A borrellian warrior (with one hand lost to a polar worm).
The Borrellian life is very harsh, but perseverance against opposition and obstacles is the central belief in Borrellian culture. Borrellians believe in survival of the fittest. Borrellians love battle, feasting, pillaging and fellowship. Borrellians generally don't use healing magic. They believe that a man must recover from sickness or wounds by his own strength. This is especially true for disease. The diseased are typically put in a tent with food and water, effectively isolated from the rest of the community. If the victim recovers, they walk out of the tent under their own power and rejoin the community. If they die, so be it. In a like manner, borrellians never complain and never show that any hardship bothers them. They are ever cheerful, no matter how bad a situation is or how much pain their may be. ("It's just a flesh wound...")
A roaring fire, story telling and contests of strength and skill mark social events. Borrellians are a social culture and tend to do everything in groups. Loners are rare. In this same manner, borrellians share everything. Food, drinking water, bathing water, clothes and more are often exchanged, traded or used by many.
Borrellians have no regret and no shame. In the same manner that they share their possessions, so too do they share each other. Exchanging wives for a night is not unheard of among borrellian men. In fact, the borrellians openly engage in sexual intercourse in full view of others (often after dinner, right there at the table). This practice has shocked quite a few delicate southerners visiting Ice Gate for the first time.
Borrellians have only two gods... Grythga, the fire maiden, protector of all borrellians, giver of fire and life, and Uthalgrim, the Ice King, the lord of the northern wastes who constantly tests Borrellians and gives them strength. These two deities are polar opposites, always in conflict, representing the two opposing aspects of the Borrellian world. Borrellians understand that both gods are needed and both of them are a part of the Borrellians. Tales told around the campfire often feature one or both of these two deities. These stories are filled with adventure, treasure, heroes and villains.
One of the greatest heroes of Borrellian myth and legend is Bren'Tar, the first Borrellian. It is told that Bren'Tarr led them to the harsh northern mountains to make their home. Borrellians believe that difficulties (whether it is the day to day struggle to survive, battle, etc.) is the way to purge the world of the weak. Only the strong should survive. The sky curtain (northern lights) can be easily seen from Borrell. According to their beliefs, Bren'Tarr ascended to the sky by climbing a mountain, now known as Bren'Tarr's Peak. He then pushed the mountain down so that mortal men could not follow. But to show them that he had not abandoned them, he left the door to heaven open a crack and its divine light shines through at night.
Magic is non-existent in this society except for Hatraddi, specialist mage/priest spell casters who concentrate on herbalism and "cold magic." Hatraddi are able to shape ice with their bare hands as easily as a normal man would shape snow. They can forge weapons and tools of ice that will not melt, even if placed in a roaring fire. Hatraddi also wield great control of plant and animal life, calming beasts, causing plants to grow, curing venomous bites and more. These Hatraddi mages are rare and they enjoy great respect. There is never more than one per village and many villages are without. This equates to roughly one in 10,000 which is slightly less than the human norm (1 in 6,250). Borrellians hate and fear all other magic and will attack sorcerers of other cultures with little provocation.
The Borrellians mainly live in the Malus Mountains in the northern peninsula Borrell. Some small groups and wandering Borrellians inhabit other areas of the extreme northern continent where temperatures rarely exceed 0º Celsius. Snow storms are common and the wind is constant. The terrain is rocky and unable to support anything but the hardiest plant forms. Resources are scarce, but include furs, rare herbs and spices and some metals.
Most borrellian communities are tribal in nature consisting of between 50 and 150 families. Each family occupies a single home. The borrellian culture is divided up into eight distinct clans. Each clan claims an animal as its spirit guide and is referred to by that animal's name. Besides being geographically separated, there are noticeable differences in lifestyle. (See below). Borrellian villages are not generally mobile. If a village is forced to move, all old houses are burned and new ones built wherever the community settles.
Most Borrellians are members of one of the eight great clans, although there is a small percentage of the population that live independent of the clans as wandering hunters or hermits.
|Clan Name & Animal||Geographic Location||Population||Notes|
|Snow Dragon||Central Borrell||213,000||The largest borrellian clan. Considered to be the most aggressive clan. Renowned for fighting skill.|
|Snow Drifter||South Central Borrell (Ice Gate)||175,000||Cultural influence from south have resulted in "softer" lifestyles. Larger, sturdier battas.|
|Kraken||East coast of Borrell.||151,000||This tribe of sailors lives on the coast and islands. They hunt at walruses and horn whales.|
|Winter Wolf||Western Borrell||126,000||Large number of snow paws trained for battle which often fight besides their masters.|
|Polar Bear||Northwestern Borrell||101,000||Claims to be the oldest clan.|
|Polar Worm||Southwestern Borrell||96,000||Strong tradition of courage. This tribe hunts polar worms regularly.|
|Polar Drake||Northeastern||82,000||An isolated clan that shuns contact with the southern world and other borrellian tribes.|
|Ice Devil||Extreme northern Borrell||68,000||This nomadic clan lives in the far north in crude battas. They consider themselves superior to all other tribes.|
Borrellians have a strong heritage and are proud of it. All Borrellian history is passed on orally resulting in hundreds of songs, histories, poems and legends. Other art forms include wood and bone carvings and ice sculpturing. Borrellians do have their own language known as Borrellish which utilizes a simple alphabet and has a harsh pronunciation. It is a spoken tongue only. There is no written form.
The Hatraddi do use a cryptic script for their spells and formulae. It is called Hataradan and there are very few in the world that can read this language. It is considered improper for non Hatraddi borrellians to become literate in any language.
Borrellian art consists of carvings (bone, ivory, wood and stone) and weaving. Many borrellian men tattoo their upper bodies with pictures of nature.
Trade with the southern realms is limited. This is mainly with former borrellians who have left. Alliances are easily made between tribes. Alliances are slower with the outside. They will ally with any group they trust if the expected treasure and combat makes the prospect worthwhile. In general, the Borrellians seem to like warriors and hunters the best and are cautious with everyone else. They feel a slight kinship to the dwarves. Borrellians are known to the other races as frostmen or simply the ice barbarians.
Many borrellian villages raid during the summer months using long ships loaded with warriors. Borrellian raids against Kitar and Carrikos are common. Occassionally, such raids will reach as far south as the Rukemian Empire and as far west as the Captured Sea where Vorrik, Normidia and Arkalia will also suffer the sting of the northern raiders.
Food comes from hunting and gathering. Borrellians typically hunt fish, seal, snow rabbit, polar bear, elk and moose. Horses are occasionally slaughtered if times are tough. Plants are scare and are gathered when come upon. Select groups of Green Gatherers are sent out to look for and gather plants. They are taught by the Hatraddi in the ways of herbalism. They are as highly regarded as the warriors due to the importance of their job. Food is sometimes claimed in raids. Food is distributed and stored on a family basis with other families contributing to another if necessary. Meat is usually dried except for the meal after the food was killed or appropriated.
Borrellian architecture is simpler than the southern realms. Architecture consists mainly of Battas, circular houses made of wood built about a central chamber which contains the fireplace.
Borrellians are not known for their metal working skill. The crude iron weapons that they do produce are inferior to the fine steel weapons produced in more civilized lands. A typical borrellian warrior will carry a large axe, a broad sword and a dagger. However, hatraddi shamans are able to create magical weapons of solid ice. These are often wielded by the greatest warriors.
Borrellian armor is commonly various forms of leather and fur. The greatest of warriors wear a thick stiff leather armor made from the skin of polar worms. Shields are either wooden and leather or a larger variety made from the polar worm hide. Borrellians do not wear metal armor. This is mostly an issue of physical comfort. Metal armor tends to be uncomfortably cold and joints will often freeze.
Borrellian women all typically wear a charm box on a necklace around their neck and a dagger on their belt. The materials that the box is made out of determines the wealth of her husband.
The borrellians are very much in tune with nature and use animals also as much as the grum. The following animals are utilized by the borrellians commonly and may be found in any borrellian village :
Snowdrifters (Also known as Drift Horses)
Large six legged warhorses with thick white coats and broad hooves. These thousand pound beasts are much stronger than southern horses and able to withstand the harshest winters. Snowdrifters can not survive in warmer climates. Huge herds of wild snowdrifters live in the Malus mountains. Each Borrellian male must capture his own Drift Horse from the wilds in order to achieve the status of warrior.
Also known as Borrellian wolves, winter wolves or Snowpaws. These huge canines have very thick snow white fur. They are prized possessions and used in hunting and defending villages. Each family has at least one snowpaw. A wealthy chieftain may have as many as twelve. These dogs are exceptionally tough and virtually immuned to cold.
In borrellian villages, animals sleep in indoors with their masters. This is to take advantage of the additional body heat. Borrellians also burn the dung as a fuel source.
Most transportation is on foot or sled. Communication is no faster than travel. Limited communication is possible between villages by great horns. Winders, as they are known, are huge men of tremendous lung power with six foot horns (taken from slain Polar Worms) set up on mountain cliffs. An agreed upon system of long and short blasts can signal a variety of a messages.
Several of the clans utilize huge sleds which enormous sails on them. These wind sleds move across frozen lakes and up and down frozen rivers. Large frozen plains and ice fields are the best places for wind sledding, where the wind is strong. Heavy cargos can be quickly transported in this way. The northern most tribes even sail their wind sleds out onto the frozen northern ocean when the sea freezes solid in wintertime. Windsled races are a favored winter sport among the borrellians.
Trade is transacted on a pure barter system. Gold is only as good as the things it can provide. There are few treasure hoards. Borrellians are not really interested in gold and jewels and other worthless baubles. A fine fur cloak or well crafted pair of boots would catch their interest however. No form of credit exists in borrellian villages. Debts are based on honor and are usually small. Placing oneself in deep debt is socially unacceptable. The punishment for not paying back a debt is a branding and banishment. Normally, possession extends only to what a Borrellian can take and keep. Inheritance passes to the sons only who must fight each other for their shares.
Great differences between the rights and responsibilities of males and females exist. Women in the Borrellian culture have no rights whatsoever. They are little more than property. The men of this culture do the hunting and defending, crafting of tools and weapons, instruction of the male children and building the houses. The women do the cooking, cleaning, gathering of plants and the instruction of the female children. Pregnancies are highly desired due to the high mortality rate in any given community. Women are expected to produce many children.
A borrellian male selects any woman he wants and need only obtain her fathers permission. In general, a borrellian man will take a wife, but partner swapping is not uncommon among the borrellians.
The husband of the family is the head of the household. The mother of the children ranks about equal to male children. All children are prized, but sons especially so. Animals, especially drift horses, are cared for almost as family members with the best possible feed and stables.
A borrellian female has a gestation period of 8 months. A birth is a great time for celebration as are birthdays until the Coming of Age. To survive childhood in the harsh environment deserves celebration. Parties are large usually involving the extended family. The gifts acquired at birthdays are the base for the possessions a child will have as adult.
From birth, children are trained to become a productive member of the tribe. Obedience is expected. Discipline is harsh. They are taught menial duties and are put to sleep during major celebrations. Male children apprentice in their chosen profession by age six. The child himself chooses. The training lasts about ten years. Child play in large groups with each other (stick fighting, wrestling, snow fights, etc.).
No ceremony surrounds the phenomenon of death. When a borrellian dies, the body is stripped and left to the mercy of the cold winds. It needs the aid of the community no longer. It is only a shell. The true essence of a borrellian is his soul, his spirit, his strength of will has been claimed by the Frozen Lord and will spend eternity in a realm of endless cold.
Borrellian names are very simple consisting of only one name, the personal name, chosen by the mother. To identify himself, a Borrellian male declares his name and his paternal lineage (i.e son of X, son of Y). Females state only their personal name.
Social stratification is minimal. Generally, the established pecking order is based on strength and courage. Males outrank females. Hatraddi are an exception, though. They exist outside the pecking order. Regardless of physical strength, Hatraddi are considered holy and deserve respect at all times. Slavery is uncommon, but not shunned. Often a proficient craftsman or beautiful woman will be kept. They are property and the charge of whoever has taken them in a raid. Because they are considered valuable property, slaves are usually well treated.
Usually, disputes and other conflicts are resolved quickly through the pecking order. In the Borrellian culture, the greater warrior always has his way. Any disputes of great extent are resolved by the chieftain or in a ceremony called the Reckoning (see "ceremonies").
All Borrellians learn to fight to some degree so as to be able to hunt and pillage. The size of the main group of fighters varies according to community size and needs. The group is loosely organized under the chief with the next most experienced in command after him. The traditional Borrellian weapon is the great axe. Other common weapons include broad swords and other hacking weapons. Bows are sometimes used for hunting and in raids, but the constant wind and frequent storms often makes them impractical.
Coming of Age
At the end of apprenticeship, a Borrellian male rides out to his first combat or raid. He must kill an enemy and bear a scar upon his return to mark the day. After his first day of battle, he has his choice of the women in the village. If he chooses a married one, he must challenge her husband to single combat. Such combat is to the death. Any Borrellian who refuses such a challenge is banished. Once he chooses, he cannot change his mind. The next day after losing his virginity, a celebration is held in his honor by the community. In it, he will eat the heart of his first kill. No coming of age ceremony exists for the females. However, it is tradition that a father wait until his daughter has seen sixteen winters before he marry her off.
In the event of an irresolvable quarrel, the chieftain may decide upon the Reckoning. In the Reckoning, the chieftain will present the opponents with a challenge. Such a challenge is always a monumental feat which may take the two contenders days to achieve and far from the village. (i.e. slaying a powerful beast, bringing back some distant object or finding some rare herb). The first to achieve the Reckoning is the winner in the dispute. The most legendary Reckoning was fought between two heroes who both wanted the same woman. The challenge was to slay a snow dragon.
A community wide feast and orgy celebrating the end of winter and the survival of the village through the harsh season.
This website was last updated March 31, 2019. Copyright 1990-2019 David M. Roomes.